Tiny phones yield powerful photos

Bombings In London

July 08, 2005|By Kim Hart and Sam Sessa | Kim Hart and Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

The blurry image had an eerie, claustrophobic quality. The story it told, though barely discernible, was powerful: A line of people were stumbling along tracks in a tunnel toward a bright spot of light.

Another picture showed what seemed to be a smoke-filled subway car from which passengers were scrambling to escape.

These images were taken yesterday through the tiny lenses of cell phone cameras held by the mass transit passengers trapped in London's Underground just after bombs exploded on a bus and three subway cars. As mainstream media outlets rushed to present the latest information and images about the explosions, people around the globe were also able to see exactly what those at the bombing sites saw.

Just as in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and last year's South Asian tsunami, cell phone technology yesterday transformed witnesses into journalists. And what they reported was often startlingly immediate and moving.

Within hours, one British television network had invited viewers to send in mobile phone videos and photos. The BBC later posted on its Web site a page titled "London explosions: Your photos," which included 10 photographs of the devastation. A photo-sharing Web site, flickr.com, also posted more than 400 images sent in by those who witnessed the attacks.

Other images were posted on the London Underground Tube Diary (www.london-underground.blogspot.com), a two-year-old blog devoted to the Underground. Throughout the day, the blog covered the attacks with hourly news updates, including a cell phone image, links to news Web sites, maps and transcripts of speeches by Tony Blair and others.

"If people are there with cameras, whether it's cell phones or not, it can be valuable," said Lee Thornton, a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"They can get angles that networks and the BBC don't have."

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